Subject: AP: Howard: No Troops Being Planned For East Timor
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 18:31:31 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

March 10, 1999

Australia's Howard: No Troops Being Planned For East Timor

Dow Jones Newswires

CANBERRA (AP)--Prime Minister John Howard said Thursday that Australian troops weren't being prepared for deployment in neighboring East Timor for possible peacekeeping duties.

"You wouldn't expect any self-respecting government to be other than ready for any contingency that might arise in the future," Howard said.

"But if you are asking me...are we contemplating sending any troops to East Timor at the present time, the answer to that is no," he added.

Howard was speaking in a radio interview. East Timor is the former Portuguese colony, which Indonesia invaded in 1975 and annexed a year later.

"If you are asking me if any contingency arose in our region in the future would we be able to respond to it, or are we making preparations to be able to respond to it, well obviously the answer to that is yes," Howard also said.

Australia has said it wants to help with East Timor's transition to autonomy, after Indonesia offered an independence deal currently being negotiated at the United Nations.

The offer has been the source of new violence in the troubled territory, with supporters of Indonesian rule clashing with separatists.

Some observers, including Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, have warned East Timor could deteriorate into civil war if the transition to autonomy is too fast.

Nobel Peace Laureate Jose Ramos Horta and other East Timor independence activists have called for a U.N. peacekeeping force to be sent to East Timor immediately.

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